Dave Farland, fantasy author extraordinaire, says that authors should never just choose their fantasy names randomly. They need to have resonance. Therefore, to come up with a good fantasy name for your character/place/animal group/whatever-the-heck-you’re-naming you need to have a process. Dave suggests listing words that convey the main idea, and then combining them to come up with a new name.
For example, George Lucas may have used the words: death, dearth, and invader to come up with the name: Darth Vader.
JK Rowling probably did something similar when she came up with name Draco Malfoy. Draco means dragon, the foy sorta of sounds like annoy, and Mal in Spanish means bad (and if I weren’t so lazy, I’d check to see if the root is actually Latin–after all, we have words like malevolent, malpractice,and Maleficent. Okay, Maleficent is actually the wicked queen in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, but you can see they totally did the same thing to come up with her name. Mal plus magnificent equals Maleficent.)
I was glad to learn this naming trick since I randomly picked several names when I wrote my science fiction novel, Time Riders. Not long ago, I rewrote the book for the national market (I’ll hopefully have news about that next week) and I figured I would do the whole naming thing right this time.
I needed a name for a group of thugs who live outside the city and who kill anyone who isn’t well armed. Here’s how it worked for me:
Outlaws + Gangsters = Outsters . . . Nope. But the name would work for a cool rock band.
Gangsters + Hoodlums = Ganglums . . . Sounds like a gum disease you get if you don’t floss.
Gangsters + Robbers = Ganglers . . . Nah,this one sounds like things that dangle in spiderwebs.
Bandits + Robbers = Bandlers . . . This happens when the clarinet section goes bad.
Bandits + Hoodlums = Bandlums . . . Ditto.
Outlaws + horror = Orrers . . . Either people who row boats or a British person swearing.
Weeds + evil = weevils . . . I get these in my flour sometimes, and they are nasty.
Grief + evil + robbers = Greevers . . . Hmm. Didn’t James Dashner use this term for his monsters in Maze Runner? I wonder how he came up with the term.
vikings + robbers = Vikers . . . Success. And I’m not just saying this because every other combination was ridiculous or already in a James Dashner novel. I like Vikers. In fact, I like it so much that I already used it in the original version of Time Riders. It was an insult. So basically, yeah, after this whole exercise, I just ended up stealing from myself.
Authors are totally like that.